Tips to Help You Maximize Federal Student Aid Eligibility and Awards
cost of a college education
is significant, and competition for student aid is as intense as ever. But don't
be discouraged – there is a lot you can do to maximize your eligibility for student
Here are some tips:
- Many student aid awards are merit-based. Your grades, standardized test scores,
and other criteria usually determine your eligibility. Be sure to study hard and
keep your grades high. Your hard work will pay off!
- File the federal student aid application (FAFSA) as early as possible, because
many aid programs are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Even if you don't
believe you are eligible, you should still apply. You could be pleasantly surprised!
You may submit your aid application to the Department of Education starting January
1st prior to the academic year that you will be attending college.
- Don't wait until you file your income taxes to submit your FAFSA, or you will
miss most of the state and college aid deadlines. Providing accurate estimates on
the FAFSA is acceptable. Once you file your income tax return, you can make updates
to your FAFSA to reflect the actual amounts on your return.
- List your name and Social Security number exactly as they appear on your Social
Security card. A mistake will delay the processing of your FAFSA.
- Make sure to double-check your FAFSA responses prior to submitting. It sounds
simple, but the smallest mistake will affect your aid eligibility and award.
- If you are unemployed due to being laid off, you may be considered a dislocated
worker for FAFSA purposes. If you meet the criteria to be considered a dislocated
worker, this could affect how the government treats your assets and could even reduce
your expected family contribution to zero.
- Understand what types of investments and assets are to be reported on your FAFSA.
Mistakenly reporting investment value or assets could inflate your expected family
contribution and affect your student aid.
- Check to see if the colleges you apply to require a "CSS Profile" or any college-specific
financial aid forms. Be sure to submit these in time to meet deadlines. (The College
Board, a not-for-profit membership association, administers the CSS Profile for
Don't be discouraged if you didn't get the type and amount of student aid you want.
Reapply each year, as your eligibility or the amount of aid available may change.
Keep in mind that a little extra effort will go a long way!